Europeans Upbeat Over Obama's Climate Change Attendance
European leaders, environmentalists hail as good news President Obama's decision to attend at least part of December's climate summit in Copenhagen
26 November 2009
Romania's President in office, Traian Basescu, gestures during a speech after exit polls were released in Bucharest, Romania, 22 Nov 2009
European reaction has generally been positive to President Barack Obama's announcement he will attend December climate talks in Copenhagen and to Washington's provisional targets for cutting greenhouse emissions.
European leaders and environmentalists hailed as good news President Obama's decision to attend at least part of next month's climate summit in Copenhagen. Both Sweden - the current president of the European Union - and Denmark, which is hosting the climate talks, said the US leader's presence would boost expectations for the conference.
The European Union is at the forefront of a global push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has pledged to cut those emissions by 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. By the same year, it says, 20 percent of its energy will come from renewable sources.
The Obama administration has pledged a provisional target of reducing greenhouse gasses by about 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020 - with deeper cuts after that. The initial pledge is far less ambitious than the European one. But Mr. Obama is hamstrung by the fact the US Congress has yet to pass climate legislation.
While French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo called the U.S. stance extremely encouraging, other European politicians have called on Washington to push for deeper emissions cuts.
Some also expressed disappointment that Mr. Obama was not scheduled to attend the end of the Copenhagen summit when the toughest negotiations are expected to take place. Mr. Obama is expected to arrive on December 9 - two days after the meeting starts. Joris den Blanken is European climate policy director for Greenpeace International.
"I think it's very positive that Obama announced he's coming to Copenhagen, but he's in fact coming at the the wrong day. The high-level segment in Copenhagen is the 16th and 17th of December," he said. "That's the moment where President Obama can negotiate..with European leaders like [German] Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Reinfeldt of Sweden. That's when it should happen," he said.
On Thursday, China announced its first detailed plan to ease carbon dioxide emissions. The State Councilsaid the country will reduce its "carbon intensity" by 40 to 45 percent by the year 2020, as compared to 2005 emission levels. It described the target as a voluntary action, and predicted it would make a "major contribution" to global efforts to deal with climate change.